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RAMANATHAPURAM

Industrial backwardness, drought and fishermen's problems are among the key issues that will decide the fortunes of those contesting the Lok Sabha elections from this constituency.
PTI | By Press Trust of India, Ramanathapuram
PUBLISHED ON APR 07, 2004 01:20 PM IST

Industrial backwardness, unemployment, drought and problems of fishermen are the key issues in the Lok Sabha polls from the former princely state of Ramnad, which shares the maritime border with Sri Lanka.

The famous Ramanathaswamy temple at Rameshwaram, which attracts thousands of devotees from all over India and Sri Lanka, is also located in this constituency.

Legend has it that it was from Rameswaram island that Lord Rama waged a war against Ravana.

The Sri Lankan government's recent proposal for a land bridge connecting this part of India with Sri Lanka is also one of the poll issues.

Congress has won the seat six times, AIADMK thrice and Muslim League, TMC, DMK and Forward Bloc, once each.

The fishermen in this constituency face the problem of being 'harassed' by their Sri Lankan counterparts and naval personnel of that country, while fishing in the Palk Straits.

NJ Bose, general secretary, Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry Fishermen's Federation, says the fishermen will boycott the polls, as 'no MP over the last 20 years has taken effective steps to solve the problems,' ever since the Sri Lankan Tamils issue started having an impact in the Palk Straits.

Both DMK and AIADMK candidates are holding out promises to get the Sethusamuthiram project implemented and bring locally viable industries that would provide employment for people.

This water starved district has been plagued by drinking water scarcity.

During the DMK regime, an assurance was made to bring drinking water from the Cauvery. A desalination plant was set up at some villages including Naripaiyur, but the problem was not solved.

Apart from general issues, the caste factor also plays a significant role in the elections in this district. The impact of the drought had been neutralised to some extent by Self Help Groups.

The constituency is spread over three districts, comprising six assembly segments, including Ramanathapuram, Paramakudi, Kadaladi, Muthukulathur, Aruppukottai and Manamadurai.

Mukulathors are the dominant community, comprising 23 per per cent of population, followed by Muslims with 20 per cent, Yadavs (15), Scheduled Castes (14), Nadars (8), Pillais (4), Mutharayars (3) and others (6 per cent).

DMK candidate Bhavani Rajendran, defeated by former IAS officer Malaisamy (AIADMK) in the last elections, has a clean image as chairman of Ramanathapuram municipality and is respected by people. Her close associates point out that the fact she was given the ticket, amidst stiff competition shows she had good image both in the party and in Ramanathapuram.

The People's Alliance candidate and former minister S Kannappan and Tamil Maanila Muslim League candidate M Mohaideen Abdul Kader are also in the fray, eyeing the Yadava and Muslim votes.

In this constituency, with 11,45,821 voters, Muslims preferred the AIADMK in the last elections, but might switch over to the DMK due to the AIADMK-BJP alliance. Dalit leaders are not happy with the DMK for rejecting both DPI and Puthia Tamizhagam.

Both Bhavani Rajendran and AIADMK candidate C Murugesan, also the party's district secretary, have completed one round of workers' meetings, and are now meeting voters. The Makkal Tamil Desam leader, Kannappan is also canvassing for votes.

A senior AIADMK member says the party's candidate is steering clear of factional rifts and was now working with the party workers.

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